► VW Golf Estate review
► We test best-selling 1.6 TDI
► A sound family wagon?
This is the best-selling version of the current Volkswagen Golf Estate – the 1.6-litre TDI 105 turbodiesel in middle-ranking SE specification. With just 104bhp and only five forward ratios in the standard manual gearbox, it isn’t especially fast – 0-62mph takes 11.2sec. But how fast do you need your family-size estate car to be?
The latest generation of Golf Estate is more practical and was engineered into the mk7 Golf programme from the very beginning. As a result it’s much more ‘Golf’ than the previous version – being built on the same Wolfsburg production line as the hatchback, rather than a factory in Mexico. It uses the now ubiquitous MQB platform, of course, good for weight reduction and strength.
Goodness, doesn’t the Golf Estate sound exciting…
Are we detecting a note of sarcasm? This car isn’t about excitement. It’s about practicality, efficiency and that reassuring Volkswagen image. The 1.6-litre TDI under the bonnet here produces 184lb ft between 1500 and 2750rpm, meaning that while you won’t win many traffic light grand prix, it should have enough muscle to move whatever you choose to chuck in the back.
And it’ll do so while sipping fuel like a desert nomad with just a single canteen to last until the next oasis.
Jeez, enough with the poetic licence! Tell us about this practicality you keep going on about
Glad you asked. Compared to the previous Golf Estate, the latest version is 23mm lower but 28mm longer and 18mm wider. Together with the smarter design and construction of the MQB platform, this is enough to see boot space with the rear seats up increase a substantial 100 litres to 605 litres total. Rear seats folded, maximum load volume increases from 1495 litres to 1620 litres. The only bigger alternatives in this class are the Skoda Octavia Estate and Honda Civic Tourer.
In addition to this sheer capacity, the boot lip is low, the opening is over a metre wide, the rear seats can be folded forward via levers in the boot, there are colour-coded pins to easily indicate if everything is locked in place correctly, and there’s a multilevel boot floor, which you can move about or remove entirely, depending on what you want to carry back there. The roller-style load cover fits under said movable floor, and let’s not forget that you get a space-saver spare as standard. No messy cans of gloop here.
Fair enough, that is pretty practical sounding. What’s it like for passengers?
Rear legroom isn’t massively generous – it’s only grown 5mm over the old car. But you do get all the same toys as the hatchback, including a proximity sensing infotainment screen and plenty of safety kit.
On the SE that means a slumber-sensing Driver Alert system, PreCrash to prepare the cabin for the unavoidable, and the radar-guided trifector of Automatic Distance Control, Front Assist and City Emergency Braking. All three of which are intended to avoid or mitigate front-end accidents. Very worthy, if occasionally over-prone to flashing bright red distance warning alarms at you; safety first, and all that.
Volkswagen excels at straightforward secondary controls, so that’s all very satisfactory. Even if we weren’t entirely taken with the ‘Brushed Dark Silver’ dashboard finish of this particular car, which makes the sparse centre console look somewhat akin to a late 1980s hifi. Other finishes are available.
Ok, you’ve had your fun – back to the Golf Estate driving experience
Probably the least interesting aspect of the entire car. The little 1.6-litre diesel is noisy until it’s warm and up to speed, and there’s not much joy to be had from wringing it out. But it’s smooth enough, and if not quite as economical as the claimed 72.4mpg and 102g/km CO2 would suggest, is still going to return good figures.
In SE spec on the standard 16-inch wheels the ride quality will soak up the miles, and there’s little sense that the dynamics are particularly blunted. But nor is this a car you’ll be ‘just popping to the shops’ in first thing on a Sunday morning. Could definitely do with a sixth gear; optional seven-speed DSG auto costs a considerable £1415 more.
Predictably competent and solidly built. But if you’re after a practical family estate, we can’t help thinking that the extra little touches that Skoda puts into the Octavia – the ice scraper under the fuel filler flap and the ticket holder on the windscreen are small things that transform a family car into a friend – make that the primary choice in this arena. After all, both cars are built on the same platform, and while the equivalent Skoda has slightly reduced safety kit, it also costs £1300 less.